I have been a passionate fisherman all my life. My father had me out in the boat as soon as I could hold a rod, and I never looked back. Some of the best memories I have of spending time with my dad were on a lake, sometimes just for a Saturday morning, sometimes for a several day jaunt “up north.”
But watching the other people I find out on the water causes me to puzzle over some things. First, it seems they don’t really need the fish. Most of the boats floating around me cost their owners $10,000 or more. The grocery store sells fish; $10,000 would keep those guys in fish for the rest of their lives.
Second, they don’t seem to be having fun. Ask a passing boat how they are doing and the most frequent response is, “Pretty slow today,” stated in a kind of bored, frustrated tone.
It finally occurred to me after years of watching. Most fishermen don’t really care if they catch fish. They will never tell you that, but it’s true. Fishing isn’t about meat. It’s about the going, the comradery, the toys, the anticipation. It’s about being out in nature, toughing it out like our pioneer brethren, proving our manhood. It’s about avoidance of the work to be done elsewhere. And it’s about the job of bringing up boys, if we are fortunate to have them. (Here I include ‘tomboys’ as my daughter has been my best fishing partner over many years.)
But here is the reason I know for sure that it isn’t about the fish, and this appears to be a primal genetic, hormonal response. When I have a successful day at the lake, it is “woohoo” when I land the big one, smiles on the dock at the inquiry of other boaters, and finally anticipation of getting home and showing the wife how cool I am. Then after the high fives, or more normally something less enthusiastic, it hits me. It’s that sense of foreboding and depression that comes when I realize, looking at the pail, that I am spending the next hour in the basement cleaning fish. Hmmm, it would only take me 15 minutes to run to the grocery store. By the way, thumbs up to the catch and release folks.
But, you will find me on the lake again next weekend. I’m just sayin’!